By Sun Shuai
BEIRUT, Feb. 3–The United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) and the Lebanese Armed Forces(LAF) recently held a memorandum of understanding (MOU) signing ceremony aiming to strengthen both sides’ cooperation on humanitarian demining. As one of the core forces for demining in the UNIFIL, the 18th batch of Chinese peacekeeping construction engineering unit (CHINCEU) to Lebanon was invited to participate in the ceremony. Next, the 18th batch of CHINCEU will be devoted to the coming demining operations within the UN Mission’s area of operation in south Lebanon but beyond the Blue Line.
According to Brigadier General Frédéric Boucher, Chief of Staff of the UNIFIL, in the wake of the 2006 Lebanon-Israel war and till 2010, the UNIFIL deminers had been conducting humanitarian demining operations within the framework of UN Security Council resolution 1701, in a bid to facilitate the Lebanon civilians’ safe access to their dwellings and agricultural land. However, these operations were suspended in 2010 because the UNIFIL’s tasks were to mark Blue Line and ensure the security of peacekeepers’ patrols. “Now, the situation allows us again to resume efforts in humanitarian demining area,” he said.
“Lebanon still has more than 40 million square meters of land contaminated with deadly mines,” noted Brigadier General Gihad Al Bechelany, director of the Lebanon Mine Action Centre (LMAC). “The signing of the MOU marks the beginning of our joint humanitarian demining operations with the UNIFIL in the 1,060-square-kilometer area between the Litani River and the Blue Line.”
After the signing ceremony, Colonel Gao Chaoning, commander of the 18th CHINCEU, accompanied Brig. Gen. Boucher to visit the LAF’s Regional School for Humanitarian Demining, where they viewed the demining tools and unexploded ordnances (UXOs) collected in the country and exchanged demining experience.
Col. Gao explained that the UNIFIL currently has peacekeepers from China and Cambodia undertaking the deadly task of clearing contaminated areas along the 120-km Blue Line and around UN positions in south Lebanon. The Chinese peacekeepers are honored to take part in the humanitarian demining missions.
“We will leverage our professional skills and strict operational standards to help the Lebanese people remove mines and clear off the major factor that hindering economy development and frightening local people,” he said.